Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Poetry Bus Wakes up and Smells the Lino

This week, that legendary conveyance, the Poetry Bus, is driven by Barbara who set us a challenge on her bleeuugh! to write a poem whose first line was: I got down on my knees and smelled the new linoleum.

Now, there's a few ways this could go, obviously, but this is a family blog and we'll have no kinky stuff here, thank you very much.  Barbara wanted long lines as well.  My pome has those, alright (hence the smaller font to fit them in), but reads more like a lump of prose as a result. 

Anyhoo.  Enjoy.  Oh, by the way, the story recounted here is completely fictional as far as I'm concerned, but I'm sure it has happened to somebody somewhere.

I got down on my knees and smelled the new linoleum.
The toothbrush clutched in my aching fist was a shocking pink shout,
At odds with the steady brown decorum of the imitation oak parquet,
Defying the tired but resolute black of the shoes of the woman standing over me.

A bucket of soapy water landed with a dull plastic noise next to my bent head,
It was not the first: Sister Mary's anger had run to many buckets this day.
I was scrubbing the floor and the wickedness from my nine-year-old soul.
Gluttony is a deadly sin and nobody should go to Hell for a stolen cupcake.

My hands were dead, white, shrivelled things, luminous in the long shadows,
My back a red-hot rod of pain when she returned just before Vespers
Surprise limned her face: she had forgotten me and my shocking pink toothbrush.
The floor was clean enough to eat off, but my thoughts were black.

P.S  Can anyone think of a title for this?  'Cos I can't.


  1. shocking pink shout is a poem in itself.

  2. Penance with a pink toothbrush?
    I actually know people who clean their kitchens with toothbrushes. I think they have OCD.
    Your poem makes me grateful I didn't grow up Catholic. Nice job, Argent!

  3. Me thinks dear Sister Mary should be the one smelling the linoleum (lol). I feel surprised that pink toothbrushes were allowed... does that mean that you did not have to brush your teeth with scrubbing brushes... such leniency!

  4. A Sort Of Baptism??

    Scary image and scary poem, but very good

  5. @TFE - cheers! I like the aliteration of 'shocking pink shout' myself.

    @Enchanted - I didn't grow up catholic but from the tales I've heard, this kind of thing could happen in the bad old days. I use a toothbrush to clean round the taps (faucets) in my bathroom.

    @Human - I bet the shocking pink toothbrushes were the cheapest, that's why they bought them :-)

    @DFTP - Thanks! Interesting title idea!

  6. Beautiful, restrained writing that lets us find our own anger. I think I could pick out just about every line as a good one, but I think it's the adjectival use that really knocks me out -"shocking pink shout", "steady brown decorum", "tired but resolute black", "back a red-hot rod of pain".
    And a cracking last line. Loved it!

  7. @Titus - I enjoyed making the strong strings of adjectives, thanks.

  8. "Mea Cupcake"

    This really painted a great picture for me. I'm sure many of us have had the nun-experience. I myself went to a Catholic high school run by Carmelites. They were often Carmel-heavies.


  9. This is great. Reminds me of my wife and the way she makes me wash the floor, though she wouldn't know a vesper if it jumped up and bit her!

  10. Shocking pink shout indeed. And while this is fiction, its truth rings true - how are the most religious of people so often the worst Christians (in the spirit and teachings of Christ)?

  11. @Kat - Mea cupcake! Darn, wish I'd though of that! And Carmel-heavies.

    @Peter - Your wife is harsh taskmistress methinks, but I bet you like it, really.

    @NanU - You're so right! I'm sure these people mean well, but in their efforts to save us all, they lose all sense of proportion.

  12. Love this - I use a toothbrush on sink fixtures too - but I would never go near my floor with one! My floor is lucky to get vacuumed once a month...

  13. Ooooh! Good one! You have great details and voice in this.

  14. love this.. and in no doubt this has happened to someone somewhere! the image of that toothbrush is just startling.. brilliant writing!


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